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'Justice don't come easy; searching for truth is risky'

Yeni talks about the prosecution of police officers who tortured and shot her brother dead

The day my brother, Yusli, w a s t a k e n by the police from his house. I had gone to eight sub-district police stations searching for him. I looked for him from morning until late in the afternoon. By 5pm the head of the sub-district informed me that Yusli had passed away and that his body was in the Kramat Jati hospital. I was able to confirm the news about his death the next day. I found that my brother died from a shot wound to his chest. There were also bruises all over his body and wounds over his eyes. I immediatey wanted to make a complaint but I did not know how. A police officer advised me to file a complaint at the Tiga Raksa District Police in Tangerang but I learned later that it would have been more suitable had I reported to the police in Bogor, the place where he was taken.

After reporting to the District Police, I submitted a complaint to the Professionalism and Security Unit of the Indonesian National Police headquarters to request for an administrative investigation against the police officers involved. I later reported to the National Human Rights Commission, Jakarta Legal Aid Institute, KontraS and the Ombudsman. I received much support and assistance from Jakarta Legal Aid Institute as well as KontraS. They always encouraged me to ask the police about the update of the investigation because unless I asked, the police would not tell me anything. When I asked the police why I had not received any letter from them about the progress of their investigation, I was told they had already sent to me the information; however,it turned out later that they sent the documents, not to my postal address but to an incorrect address.

There were irregularities during the investigation and trial of the case. On one occassion, for a month the court repeatedly postponed the hearing without informing the complainants the reasons of its postponement or giving notification in advance that it would be postponed. The hearing was scheduled for 10am but would only start at 3pm. On some other days, the hearing was scheduled at 1pm but we were kept waiting until 5pm and then nothing happened. On other occassions, I was not aware that there would be a hearing and it turned out they had either had a hearing or the accused police officers were in court waiting for trial.

I am naturally a very curious person. I did not know why but one day I felt like going to court even though there was no information that there would be a court hearing. It was as if I felt something in my gut, I went to the court with my brother's wife, Siti Maryanah, and found out that the accused police officers were there waiting to be tried! I spoke to the prosecutor and in protest told him: "why I was not I informed that there would be a hearing today?" He replied that I should not be concern as the hearing was cancelled anyway. I told him that whether the hearing was cancelled or not, it was irrelevant, the point was I was not informed there would be a hearing; and in future if a hearing is scheduled I need to know so I can monitor the proceeding.

However, the prosecutor did not pay attention to my request despite giving him my mobile phone number and repeated requests for him to inform me of schedule of the trial. One day I called him and he told me the first trial was already held a week before. When I asked him when the next trial would be, he said it had been scheduled on that day at 1pm. It was already 12 noon when I was talking to him and I only had an hour to go to the court. With whatever clothes I wore at that time, I rushed to the court and managed to attend the court hearing. I was disappointed that the prosecutor failed to inform me the date of the first hearing because it was on that particular day the prosecutor delivered the indictment. As I have missed the first hearing, I am still not sure what the initial indictment imposed on the accused was. Had I not taken trouble to actively know the scheduled hearing, I would have not known anything about the trial. Perhaps, I would not be able to know what the punishment handed down by the court.

As the trial started, I was asked to testify before the court. Apart from me, my brother's wife, Siti, and her father, Pak Durahman, also gave their testimonies in court as they witnessed the arrest of Yusli in 26 December 2011. From the side of the perpetrators, the Head of Cisauk Sub-District Police and the Head of the Criminal Unit were summoned to testify. In their testimonies, the three perpetrators admitted torturing my brother but they all claimed that the shooting was an accident. They said my brother tried to grab one of the officer's guns so they had to shoot him.

Of course I do not believe what the police claimed. You may think I am biased since I am the sister of the victim, but it was not only me who did not believe them. One of the judges also questioned during the hearing that the claim of the police was not plausible. The judge noted that even if it was true that Yusli did tried to grab a gun, it was a fight between one person and three police officers, and it is only logical that the two other officers should be able to hold to restrain Yusli instead of shooting him. Also, how could he possibly grab a gun as he was handcuffed when arrested?

An expert witness from the Faculty of Law of the University of Indonesia was requested to testify before the court. She stated that the accused should have been charged and punished for premeditated murder. Her view was based on the fact that during the arrest, the police officers who arrested Yusli had been saying 'just shoot him, just shoot him!' Another irregularity was that they took my brother to the area of Centre for Research on Science and Technology in Serpong, and not to the police station.

My brother's wife and father in law who witnessed the arrest testified that there were actually four people who came to take my brother away. They mentioned this to the police as well during the investigation so the police knew about it. Yet somehow in the court, there were only three persons who were being tried. If there were four people involved, why not try all of them? I do not understand. What else could have I done? I have tried my best. As Indonesians put it, I have done everything I could that my head is now my legs and my legs are now my head.

When it was about the time for the prosecutor to deliver his demand on what punishment should be imposed on the accused, the prosecutor was suddenly replaced. I was told that the old prosecutor was sick and undergoing a medical procedure. The new prosecutor was not very cooperative with us. He never talked to us. Every time he saw me and my family in court, he always tried to avoid us and pretended he was busy or in the middle of something. If the hearing was cancelled or postponed, he never come to us and took time to explain. He was always in a rush. Again, I am a very curious person. So what I did was I followed the prosecutor in the court without him knowing. Interestingly, I saw him talking nicely to the family of the perpetrators.

Seeing the close relationship between the prosecutor and the family of the perpetrators, I knew at that time that there was something wrong going on. My concern was proven to be right. The new prosecutor only demanded punishment of two years of imprisonment to be imposed on two police officers for maltreatment resulted in grave injuries and a punishment of five years of imprisonment to be handed down on another police officer. This, I thought, was the result of 'discussion' between the prosecutor and the family of the perpetrators. The accused family must have asked the prosecutor not to demand for heavy punishment. At the end, the judges sentenced two of the accused, Riki Ananta Sembiring and Hermanto, to two years of imprisonment for maltreatment resulting in severe injuries; and another accused, Aan Tri Haryanto, was sentenced to five years of imprisonment for manslaughter under Article 359 of the Penal Code.

For me, such judgement was not just. All evidence, testimonies and examination during the hearings revealed that the police officers had deliberately murdered my brother. His body was severely abused that many of his bones were broken and fractured. With so much suffering that my brother had to go through, it is not fair that the perpetrators would get only two years and five years of imprisonment. I have spoken to other detainees, and I was told that those sentenced to such punishment are those who committed less serious crimes, for instance, assaulting others that resulted in injured or broken legs. Perhaps in my brother's case, it is because the accused were all police officers. When the judgement was being read out, the judges mentioned that one of the mitigating factors in this case was the fact that the accused were members of the Indonesian National Police who served the country. As for the aggravating factors, the judges cited that my brother was a criminal and a recidivist.

There was no order for restitution given by the court. As the brother of his wife needs money to live, we requested for restitution to the Witnesses and Victims Protection Agency (LPSK). Yet the agency required us to submit receipts of the expenses we spent on the funeral as well as the travel expenses when we made complaints to several state institutions. It is impossible for us to get receipts because we were travelling in public transportation. I could not provide any receipts to the LPSK. Until now we have not received any restitution.

Apart from the request for restitution, I contacted the LPSK for the purpose of getting protection from them. Personally, my family and I are not afraid. We knew the truth is risky and justice is not easy. I was concerned that something would happen to my brother's in-laws. They never told me that they were afraid or anything but once when I was walking home with my brother's wife from the police station, I fell over after a car run into us. I did not know whether it had anything to do with my brother's case. Since that time I thought it is best to contact the LPSK to seek protection in case something bad happens.

What bothers me these days is the fact that the court's judgement is yet to be executed as of today. I learned that instead of being imprisoned in a correctional facility like other people, the convicts are still held at a police sation. This is another reason why I felt it was unfair. A police station is like a home for them. If they are being 'detained' there, how would we know that they could not leave outside the police statio as they wish? They could have just gone home or gone for a coffee without us knowing! I talked to one of the high ranking officials at Tiga Raksa District Police but he could not explain why. He said only the court can explain why the convicts are still at the police station. Another police officer told me that they have nothing to do anymore with me or my brother's case because the judges had already delivered their judgement. Yet how could they say so when it was obvious that the convicted policemen are still held detained in their office? Surely this means they still have unfinished business on my brother's case? In the last week I have started visiting several organisations and state institutions again to inform them the fact that the police officers have not yet been taken to a detention facility for convicted persons.

Since I started this struggle for justice, deep inside my heart I knew that I would not be able to obtain justice as it is. For insignificant and poor person like me, we can best expect only partial justice. I am not satisfied with the judgement but what else can we do? I am aware that most of the time torture cases are not investigated. So when I see it that way, I guessed I was lucky enough that at least the perpetrators in my brother's case were punished.

I know there are many torture cases yet very little of them were investigated upon by the police. Around Tiga Raksa area alone, there are at least two other cases like my brother's. Yet it is only Yusli's which has drawn public attention because my family and

I have protested against it. I am so eager to do something about this case as I believe there was something fishy about it. For instance, after we found out that Yusli had died, the police came to us and offered us IDR 5,000,000 (around USD 500). In addition to that, we were asked to sign a letter saying we would not file a complaint against the police. Those irregularities encouraged me to pursue the case. I gained many support and assistance from NGOs, like LBH Jakarta and KontraS. There were so many letters sent to the police that it was difficult for the police not to follow up my complaint.

I am still not sure for 100 percent why this happened to Yusli. I could only guess that the police just like arresting people arbitrarily. For them, it is like a guessing game. They arrest people, torture them, and who knows they might confess that they have done a crime. I know my brother is not that kind of person. I know he would not confess something he had not done.

My theory is that: the police might have tortured my brother severely to force him to confess that he had committed a crime; however, since he was stubborn they might have run out of patience on what they were going to do to him. Perhaps, they did not know how to explain it to their their superiors that they have illegally arrested my brother so they might just have decided to shoot him, and made a false claim that he was trying to grab a gun.

To me, the meaning of justice is simple: do things in accordance with the law, the Penal Code and all that. If somebody has committed a premeditated murder, then the accused must be convicted and punished for premeditated murder. There should not be any gap on what is written in the law with what it is in reality. If there is a gap, then what is the point of having a law?

Posted on 2013-09-03

Asian Legal Resource Centre
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